PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. — Pilot Mountain State Park will not be closed to the general public so that a group of car enthusiasts may use it exclusively for a day of uphill thrill riding, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
The Vintage Triumph Register had wanted to use Pilot Mountain State Park for what it refers to as a ‘limited hill climb.’
The plan would have been a full day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., of driving Triumphs up the first eight-tenths of a mile of Pilot Mountain, according to state parks officials and public record correspondence provided to the Journal.
But for that to happen, the mountain section of the park would have to be closed to the general public, park officials said.
Shutting the general public out of such a large portion of a state park would have been unprecedented. Only access to the Yadkin River would have remained open to the public.
“Most North Carolina state parks host various large-scale events such as bike races, ironman contests and festivals. These events are conducted while the traditional park uses remain open and available to the public. However, to accommodate time hill climbs at Pilot Mountain State Park, the summit area overlooks, hiking trails, rock climbing, picnic area and campground will be closed,” former parks director Lewis Ledford said in August 2013.
Making matters more complicated, the General Assembly would have had to approve lifting the speed limit restriction of 25 mph, as the car club wanted to go up the mountain at an average top speed of 45 mph. That effort has stalled.
In addition, even if the speed limit were lifted, it isn’t clear that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has the authority to close most of the park to the general public in favor of one group, DENR officials said this week.
As a result, the car club is withdrawing its request to rent the park, according to Ed Shelton, a co-owner of Shelton Vineyards and one of the sponsors of the club’s convention.
Shelton, whose clout in Raleigh spans decades, tried to help the car club with the application process.
“In the last few days, issues have been raised concerning the limited closing of the park and the limited increase of the speed limit in the park, and also our efforts on behalf of the Triumph group have been questioned.
“Due to the reaction to the information stated above, the Vintage Triumph Register has asked us to withdraw the request to use Pilot Mountain Park,” Shelton said in a news release.
The week-long convention is still on. It will be held in September and could attract as many as 500 people to Surry County, according to the news release.
Pilot Mountain became North Carolina’s 14th state park July 24, 1968.
Shelton helped raise money that enabled the state to purchase the park — he along with a committee of 60 members, according to the state park system. About 12,000 people donated more than $350,000.